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Dublin: 7 °C Friday 15 November, 2019
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Is this the coolest photography in Ireland?

Tired of the same old digital imagery, cameraman Alex Sapienza turned to 100-year-old wetplate photography to create the ultimate retro portraits.

IN A WORLD where you and I can Instagram our dinner and make it look like a retro masterpiece, it would be tempting to conclude that there was little left in the photographer’s craft.

Dublin-dwelling Alex Sapienza, a cameraman and photographer, has decided to reintroduce the artistry to taking a photographic portrait by embracing the past. Sapienza employs the wet-plate collodion method, which dates back to 1851 and is one of the first photographic techniques ever used. As it involves the use of highly dangerous chemicals such as cyanide, silver nitrate, cadmium bromide and acidic compounds, it’s safe to say it isn’t for mass market use.

Sapienza told TheJournal.ie that he decided to step back in time because he was “getting tired of the same digital images that you get to see every day, the same set-ups and exactly the same post-processing done with Photoshop”. He says:

For me it’s very hard to get excited by digital images, they are stores on hard drives and phones and most of the time they never see the light of day. The images produced by this technique are one-of-a-kind images which cannot be duplicated. It’s one beautiful images, usually 10 x 12 inches in size on glass or aluminium and it’s a real object rather than a file stored somewhere on the internet.

The sourcing of the apparatus for Sapienza’s studio was, understandably, a bit of a challenge. The lens is a brass barrel lens made in Paris around 1870 and he sourced that in an antique shop in New York. The camera itself comes from London and dates from the early 1900s. Both were necessary to achieve what Sapienza describes as “timeless images”.

This short vid shows how Sapienza shoots his portraits (we like the juxtaposition of Breaking Bad-style chemical mixing with Wild West-style portraits):

via TrueFilmsTV/Youtube

Sapienza’s Analogue Studio is on South William Street, Dublin – he says that the entire process from taking your portrait to getting the finished product into your hand takes just 30 minutes. He’ll be exhibiting some of his glass and aluminium photos and cameras at the VintageIreland event in Dublin’s Burlington Hotel today from 11am.

You can also see his portraits on his Facebook page. Here’s a selection of some of them (you might recognise some of the faces…) What do you think?

Is this the coolest photography in Ireland?
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  • Wetplate photography by Alex Sapienza

  • Wetplate photography by Alex Sapienza

  • Wetplate photography by Alex Sapienza

  • Wetplate photography by Alex Sapienza

  • Wetplate photography by Alex Sapienza

  • Wetplate photography by Alex Sapienza

  • Wetplate photography by Alex Sapienza

  • Wetplate photography by Alex Sapienza

  • Wetplate photography by Alex Sapienza

  • Wetplate photography by Alex Sapienza

  • Sapienza in his studio

  • Warning: chemicals at work

  • Developing images

  • Developing images

  • Self-portrait by Alex Sapienza

  • The result of the image being taken in video (above)

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